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Tom Philpott Education. (2013) 'Glory Denied The Saga of Jim Thompson, America's Longest-Held Prisoner of War.' New.

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Jim Thompson 36, Vietnam 17, Thompson 9, Jim Jr. 8, Alvarez 7, Lou Meyer 5, Harold 5, Massachusetts 4, Everett Alvarez 4, South Vietnam 3, Nashville 3, Pennsylvania 3, Hudson 3, Us 3, Pam 3, Mccain 3, Alice 3, Ruth 3, Tennessee 2, Hawaii 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Tom Philpott  Education.  (2013) 'Glory Denied The Saga of  
   Jim Thompson, America's Longest-Held Prisoner of War.' New.  

    February 16, 2013
    6:00 - 6:59pm EST  

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"glode philpott, author of >> author of glory denied. there is a moment in 1991 where you in dallas and jim were all >>t wasr at a trial. what was the circumstance?'s >> was the trial for jim's son.r he had four children. jim j hen jr. was born the day after he was shot down in 1991.e oth there were both there for a a tryout, second-degree murder trial. he was convicted. >> okay. he was jim? >> jimlo thompson, the one that his ory hprisoner of war in american history. .. buried urn an avalanche of tragedy for the last 28 years. he's a stroke victim today. he couldn'ttell his own story
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and i met him in 1984 and got his permission to tell his own story and so "glory denied" is about what he went through in vietnam. it's also about what his family went through in vietnam and the family together went through after the war. >> who was alice? >> alice was jim's wife. they had been married 10 years at the time that jim was lost in vietnam and hs captivity began. and she -- they met in new jersey jim found in the army a place where he could realize his dreams and ambitions, but he was wep up in a war that he -- swept up in a war that he had no understanding of, alice had no understanding of. m wavidn ev knowhere if.the >> they met in newt jersey. d
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to the congress gofmente he was learning lingala and suddenly vietnam got hot and his team was ld to train for vietnam. >> where was he rom,
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originall >> bergenfieldnew jersey. >> where was alice from? >> a neighboring town of dumont. they met on a blind date and they stched partners by the end of the evening, having been attracted to one aoth. jim was raised in quite a bit of poverty and kind of a gray existence that he had -- his parents were 08der than other parents of -- older than other parents of the youth. his father was a bus driver. his mother was a homemaker. quite dominated by the father. his father was not a very loving n and >> his father was not a very loving man he didn't have a loth of aspirations for loving himself.ow h e c-span: how much education didh? he have? >> guest: he was two years ahead of alex.
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he did not graduate high school. c-span: the longest-serving pow in american history? >> guest: yes, that iss correct. he wn was be someone also don't know about. but it is unlikely. c-span: when was he shot down. >> guest: he had been in vietnat for three months. his assignment at that time was. in charge of this special forcep "a-team." train them, to fight infiltration by the vietcong coming down the ho chi minh trail and supplying the various cords in variousprts of south vietnam. at that tme, it became much more famos in 1968 whenthere was a marine corps battle there, but at the -- in 1963,when jm first arrived there, it was a remote outpost, quite a dangerous assignment and he --
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his 12-man team was there to train -- work with the nun nungs, who were special forces from china, o work with the mountain yards wo were the native population and there and work with south vietnamese regular forces who, none of them were as gung ho as the americans. >> he was captured in 1964 and released after nine years, when? >> in march 16, 1973. so, 10 days short of nine yars. >> for purposes after the introduction, we -- in 1973, he comes back to the united states. we're talking about 1991, his son standing trial for murder. why? >> jim -- jim jr. was born the day after jim was shot down. alice had made a decision about 15 months later to move the family in with another man to pose as thehusband of this
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other man to sort of put her life with jim thompson behind her. the reason shedidthat were numerous, but her support system was breaking down. alice was the kind of woman who was very dependent uon her husband. there were some problems in the marriage, but nothing that jim thought about much while he was in captivity because he idolized the marriage and the family. it was his dream to get home. but from alice's perspective, she had suddenly had -- when her husband was lost, jim was born and she hadthree young daughters under the age of six, she found herself unable to cope. for a time, the commanding officer at the base at fort bragg where jim was assigned to vietnam was always thee, a shoulder for alice to lean on, somebody providing the support that she needs. alice, if you want to go anything, to any social events,
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st let me know. but if you're in the military, it's a transient life and soon after several month, the commanding officer reassigned, a new commander officer came in, didn't quite knoll her story. neighbors would come home from work, have warm reunions and alice could spy from her close quarters. e lived on base. and she found herself increasingly helpless to handle the situation. a woman who helped her out, jean ledbetter had lost her husband in vietnam about six mnths later. the two of them met and were, again, support for each other. but jean soon learned at her husband had been lost and she would be moving off post. so, another support for alice was gone. jim thompson, soon after his capture, was tortured for a statement. he didn't write the statent. he signed the statement. he then read the statement a lot of prisoners of war had been tortured and had to sign
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statements, eventually. but unlike them, jim thompson didn't have somebody to rely on that he could bounce off what he had just been through. he was kept in isolation, which i'll get to, i hope, a little bit later. but from that statement that jim had made was broadcast on hanoi radio several months later. by the time -- that was in november of 1964. so, it was six months after jim was lost. alice heard news reports of this, but she said that the army couldn't provide the tape for her. she could never verify whether it was her husband. the army had a problem finding the tape. several months later, she moved -- she made the decision, she met her army sergeant at a bowling alley who had two children of his own that he warranted to raise. asked alice if she would ike to ve off with th and they could be one family in massachusetts. she made that decision.
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it would forever affect her life. >> so, let me go quickly, though, jim thompson is in solitary confinement where in vietnam? >> jim was -- perhaps i should tell you first how he was captured, which is at the a-team, they would be resupplied and receive their payroll from an air force plane that would fly in periodically. and if it had extra gas aboard, one of the team members would hop aboard to see if they could see what vietnam activity was like in the area. jim thompson didn't go on those flights. usually it was his operation sergeant who did, but he was on r&r on the coast. so,im hopped aboard. and he thought he saw a bridge that had been newly built and he asked the pilot, an air force captain by the name of richard whitesides, to fly down below flight minimums, which was 1,000 feet and they were shot ot of the sky. the pilot was likely killed by
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the small arms fire, but he was certainly lost in the crash. jim was thrown from the crash. he had a broken back, a wounds across his cheek, he had burns on his legs, and he was in and out of consciousness when the vietcong picked him up. he -- he was kept for the next four years in jungle camps throughout south vietnam. it was really quite a different existence than the pilot who were eventually shot down in the north and captured and together, they were a suppor group. but because jim was isolated, he never had any of that kind of support structure. additionally, he was exposed to so much more physically than they were up there, just from trying to survive in a jungle environment. >> how many times did he try to escape? >> he tried to escape five times. three -- the first three escapes came in the early -- after he was able to build himself back up a litle bit to walk -- to be able to wa. for a time, he was moved from camp to camp on a stretcher. eventually, he was able to walk
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to shuffle and he would shuffle away from camp, hoping to get all the way away and for three of these attempts, he would just run into a guard. he would tell the guard that he was looking to relieve himself and then head back to camp. >> ok. 1964, he's in the south being held by the v.c., the vietcong. she is where in her life? where is she living? >> living in hudson, massachusetts where this army sergeant. >> before that, what base was shezz on? >> fort bra, north carolina where the special forces teams were. >> she moves with, you call him harold. that's not his real name. >> that's correct. >> why didn't you give us his real name? >> he didn't give his permission and the publishers suggested that i use a pseudonym. >> they moved to where again? >> hudson, massachusetts. >> how long do they stay there? >> for he nxt 7 1/2 years they lived together. >> liinging as husband and wife? >> living as husband and wife. alice wore a wedding ring,
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saying this was his wife. if someone asked about her past, she would say her husband was lost and she'd try and avoid the conversation. >> he come home in 1973. >> right. >> we jump again to 1991. how did jim jr. commit murder? and where is he today, by the way? >> he has been patrolled. he was convicted of second-degree murder. he's been patrolled and moved on promisingly with his life. what happened to jim was this -- jim jr. when his father came home, he was called in -- jim was a playful youngster and when he came home from school, he would play outside. he barely checked in. this one particular afternoon, his mother calls him in, the family is sitting around the table. she says to young jim, harold is not your father. this man is your father. she pulls out a photograph and says and he's coming home. jim was stunned. he didn't know what to say at
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that point. he goes back outside to play. what affected jim jr.'s life so much was the reunion of his parents was a very rocky affair for the next year and a half that they lived together because incredibly, when jim thompson came back, alice was there waiting for him at valley forge, told him how she had lived her life, invited him to divorce if she'd like or they could try and make a family of it. jim thompson had dreamed of being reunited with his family. so, he figured l's give it a go. they went up to the house in hudson, massachusetts, unloaded the -- took the frite out and moved on with their lives in the army. bull for the next 15 months, it was a terrible existence for the entire family. >> now, harold was there when they all got together up there. >> he as. one of the escort officers was
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also with him and he said it was the most incredible tension-filled scene he'd ever been a part of. it was almost like suddenly harold was this uncle who was just an observer as they went about picking up their posesion and putting them in the -- >> what age would alice have been in 1973? >> she was born in 1935. so, what's that -- do a little math here. she was 38 at that time. >> harold was how old? >> he was a few years her senior, i believe. and jim thompson was how old? >> two years her senior. >> wh he ce back, h was 39? >> right. >> so, how did they get to that -- was it nashville courtroom? >> jim jr. was thrown into this family and his father, this stranger in charge, was suffering not only from the depression, he was trying to
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repair his family, he was the p van winkle ohe army at that point. he was trying to repair his career. and he was trying to reconcile how the country felt about the war because what kept him going all those years was believing, too, that the country was supporting his effort. and it was agreat shock to him when he first ran into other americans that, as a p.o.w., to learn that there was dissension and when he got home to have that all confirmed for him, that was very tough. and in that environment, he came an alcoholic or perhaps he always was one and the disease blossomed for him. he was suffering from sever depression, in need of some psychiatric counseling at that time and wasn't getting a significant amount. and in that environment, jim jr. was idolized by his father at first. i mean, among the four children, only the older daughter had remembered her father --
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>> pam. >> pam. and she kept a copy of his photograph hidden in her drawer, her bureau drawer. the mother allowed her to keep it, but jim thompson's name was not to be mentioned in that household. so, the seco daughter, laura, grew up believing that she had asked her mother at one point what happened to their father and she said he died of a snakebite. the two younger children, ruth and jim jr., didn't know they had another father. they believed harold was their father. and so in this environment, when jim returned, pam, his princess, suddenly wasn't his princess any longer. she had changed. she had grown from a toe-head youngster that he called princess into this sort of gangly teener trying to -- studious teenager, bookish and not someone who found her father to be the prince charming that she expected him to be.
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>> get as close up as we can of this photograph and tell us as you look at that top photograph there, who's who? >> jim is in the middle. alice is on his right side. pam is on the next to alice. jimmy is beside his father. laura is beside jimmy. and on the outside is ruth. >> so, murder. where? >> well, what i'm trying to explain, i guess, brian, is the kind of environment that jim jr. was raised in. so, after 15 months, the family fell apart. jim jr. went from being this d ld, spoiled you might say 9-year-old who was idolized by his father to one day his mother comes up while he's visiting with relatives up in pennsylvania and says your father and i are getting a divorce, it's over, he wouldn't see his father again for years and years. at that point, his sisters say
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that he shut himself off. it was like he closed down. this boy didn't want t be hurt anymore. and it was -- jim jr. is a very good-natured, warm fellow. but he -- if you can draw him out. but he's a ver quiet person and he turned to alcohol himself in his early teen years. he dropped out of high school. he was a wayward son. alice didn't quite now what to do with him. and he became a truck driver and he had mrried and while he was on the road one day, his -- well, they had divorced then. it was a tumultuous marriage that jim j had, when he returned from the road, he had -- he had fund out that his wife had sold some $200 car that
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he treasured. he went to the silver dollar saloon in nashville looking to the person she had sold it to. he was a rough individual. he had been known to knife folks. jim happened to be that night with a young lady who was a minor who had a handgun when this person threatened him, according to the trial testimony, jim shot him and wa found guilty of second-degree murder. >> what year would that have been? >> 1991. >> so, he had the trial right away? >> no, i'm sorry, the murder occurred -- the shooting occurred in 1990 and it was a year later. >> where was jim thompson in 1990? >> jim thompson jr.? >> senior. >> he was in nashville. >> he live there had? >> he live there had. he came back, but he was on the road quite frequently at that time. >> what was he doing then? >> as a truck driver -- >> no, no, senior. >> i'm sorry. jim thompson sr., by that time, was a stroke victim living by hielf down in key west,
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florida. >> didn't have a job? >> he had retired on full disability from the arm. >> when did he have the stroke? >> he had the stroke in 1981. >> was he married in 1990? >> he was not. >> what was his relationship with his son in 1990? >> they had been relatively strained. jimmy was disappointment for jim sr. because he hadn't been raised the way he would have preferred. table manners, well educated, well read. that wasn't the way jim was raised. he's a bright guy, but he was raised in more of a bue collar environment. >> where was alice in 1990? >> she was living in ennessee. ice had remarried after jim and her divorced and, infact, this summer they sell -- they will celebra their 26 wedding anniversary. she found a solid relationship then.
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>> and he was 10 years younger? >> that's right. >> where does she live today? >> tennessee. i don't say the exact location to protect her privacy. >> how many years did you spend on this book? >> i spent weekends and weeknights working on it for approximately 15 years. >> why? >> well, i -- at the time i was a writer for "army times" and someone said i did a story about fred sherry, who was an air force prisoner of war, who won an award from the air force because they didn't look after his inances properly, cherry's wife had a child out of wedlock by another man, in an air force homents there's evidence they could have checked up and found out that she was unfaithful to him. so, cherry won an award back and after the article appeared, someone called me and aid if you want to know a more difficult story, a more moving story than that, you might check into this particular case.
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i found -- i was told that jim thompson was thelonge-held prisoner of war in american history and that surprised me because i always heard that alvarez was the longest-held p.o.w. so, i looked into the thompson story and then went down to interview him and i found someone who had had a stroke in 1981. he lived for the past three years at the time i met him as a stroke victim down. there he was ambulatory. he can speak in broken phrases. he can understaneverything that i said to him. but during our first interview together, jim was very frustrated. i wanted him to tell his story and he could not. at some point, it looked like he was becoming tearful with his frustration. he gets up, he goes over to a small tape recorder that he kept in his living room and he turned it on and i heard this viant,
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articulate, well educated it seemed, well rad person talking about his experience while held captive. and he said listen. and i listened and he provided me access to all his records. psychiatric, health rerds, his intelligence reports. and i interviewed over the course of the next 15 years 160 people who could tell a slice of jim thompson's story. >> i want to show the audyention how you've done this. we'll get at close-up of this ge and ask you why. for instance, what they're going to see in just a moment, it starts up there with a letter, my darling from i assume this is one from alice to her husband when he was in vietnam. then linsay card, frank rose, and eddie trent and lindsay car and george maloney. it is just one paragraph after another with people identified. what are we looking at? >> what we're looking at is the story being woven by the people who live the experience. each one of them is telling a little slice of the thompson story. and what i've done is edited in
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a way where their thoughts are hofly flowing narrative. the reason why i did this and i try add few ways to write it in narrative is i found this a uch more honest way to present the facts of the story. if it had been a sing narrator telling the story, everything that occurred would have been filtered through me without the benefit of the primary person involved being able to tell that part of his story. so, what i found -- i didn't come to the idea of using oral history to start, but what i discovered was that i was captivated by these voices. they were more poignant, profound, jarring thananything i could have written and much more honest at the ame time. so i wanted to tell this story, so i chose 90 voices to tell this story and i've woven them together. if i could add one point, here, too. if you say to yourself, well, how did he tell the story of
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jim's captivity? well, i had the great benefit of being helped by a senior writer, he retired as the editor of "reader's digest," ken tomlinson. he worked on a book called "p.o.w.", which was the first take that "rader's digest" project that they had interviewed a slew of prisoners when they first came home. and ken tomlinson had sat down a couple of aftenoons with jim thompson and some o that was ed in the bo "p.o.w.." but there was this invaluable volume of manuscripts that ken gave me that i was able to use in the same way that i used autovoigses throughout the book to weave thompson's story in there, which included as we mention the five escape attempts, including the extraordinarily, i think, dramatic escape atefment that he pulled off in october of 1971, in which he and lou meyer stayed
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on the lam for a civilian p.o.w., stayed on the lam for two days and found the junle impassable, had to come back to the camp and was captured. the other interesting thing about the story is that it hasn't really been told before because thompson has been a stroke victim. when he returned and after he wasn't able to repair his family, he finally understood that he wasn't generally regarded as the longest-held p.o.w., although the army had made gestures to that effect, he was in his hometown parade and celebrated in that regard. but the reputation that alvarez had established was a very solid one and it was based on his own heroic, his own profile among the many p.o.w.s held up north. i don't believe he can be faulted for -- he was the longest-held prisoner of war in north vietnam. >> explain, then, the ceremony at the reagan white house, where you've got six p.o.w.s ther getti spiamedals. tell us what those were. and why the attorney for jim
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thomps was arguing about what role everett alvarez would play in that rowny. >> michael shamwits is a real proponent advocate for jim thompson. he's a lawyer who came to know jim thompson after his stroke. so, he's always wondered himself why jim thompson wasn't generally recognized as the longest-held prisoner of war. in 1988, they decided to cut a medal that would be -- cast a medal that would recognize p.o.w.'s from our various wars. everett alvarez had worked in the -- was an executive in the reagan administration, a deputy administrator for the department of veterans' affairs. and he was invited to represent the vietnam war p.o.w.'s at that ceremony. >> this is jim thompson with his
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back to us in this photo. >> and at the time alvarez knew of this controversy about he wouldget -- he would feel heat from army veterans saying you're claiming to be the longest-held prisoner american history and alvarez would try to correct the record whenever he could. but it was very difficult. frorks when the vietnam memorial was dedicated, alvaez was prominent in the reagan administration, was part of the parade, shamwits on thompson's behalf had gone to the directors of that ceremony and said give jim thompson a prominent role in this and they said we already picked who we're going to have. so, he and thompson were in the -- a section that they watched the parade and they heard everett alvarez announced as the longest-held prisoner of war in american history
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so, alvarez was aware of this situation and the confusion and he wanted to make sure that jim was properly recognized. so, he said to the reagan white house, look, let two people be represented. indeed, they selected two p.o.w.'s from world war ii, korea, and vietnam. and michael shamwits said he was a bit embarrassed because he was saying, in effect to the white house, don't let alvarez -- it should be thompson in the ceremony and it was only late their he discovered it was alvarez that made sure thompson was part of the ceremony. but he was trying to be the advocate for jim. >> here is another picture of jim with which daughter? >> that's -- that is with ruth. she attended the white house ceremony. >> and had he had his stroke at this point? >> yes. yes. as i say,he's ambulatory, still looks pretty good in a uniform and -- but he'shad some very, very difficult years. >> what's the history of jim
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thompson and his daughter ruth? >> it's been quite rocky in that ruth -- ruth loves her dad, but she doesn't like the way se's been treated by him over the years in that jim is very, particularly since his stroke, is intolerant of people who don't quite have his own views about things and little slights will upset him a great deal. and so they've had a very tough time of it. and i'll give you an exap approximately. again, this is to some degree because jim is a stroke victim. but a couple of years ago, ruth had sent down a flower arrangement for her dad at christmas time and as she had done for a number of years because she knew he liked to entertain. well, the arrangement came with just her husband, ken and their
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two children mentioned on the card. he called up frustrated, wanting to know what happened to ruth, was she injured, was she sck, had they had a divorce and he not been aware of it. ken, her husband, said jim, don't worry about it, everything is fine, ruth will call you back. she didn't call back for a couple of days and jim hasn't talked to her for -- didn't talk to her for about a year and a half after that. >> where does jim thompson live today? >> key west, florida. >> when was the last time ou saw him? >> i think i saw him probably four or five years ago. >> do you ever talk to him in any way? >> i've talked to him a couple of times as the book was in publication and jim -- jim thompson, i believe, is quite pleased that his story has gotten out. but i don't think he -- it's the story he wanted precisely. as i was researching the book, jim had hoped that it would be
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about him. alone. his story and his heroics. and what i found was this compelling story not only of jim thompson, a hero, five years in solitary confinement, fiv escape attempts, hi first five years he never talked to another american. extraordinary what he went through. and nine years, longest held. what i found was te war had impacted his family tremendously and that had to be part of the story. and i didn't think i would have that part of the story until alice agreed to tell what she went through, why she went through. she's not asking people to condone what she did. she'sust asking people to understand. >> when did she agree to talk? >> in 1985. and i didn't call her up cold. i had interviewed her daughter, laura, and she told me that aspect of the story. i said i need to talk to your mom. she said the only way -- she said she'll never talk about her
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p.o.w. year experiences or her experiences while her husband was a p.o.w. but then she said, well there's e way you might be able to approach her andthat's through ruthy, her younger daughter who lived in tennessee. so, i interviewed ruthy over the phone and she said that she would bring the issue up with her mom and it was quite a dramatic scene one sunday afternoon at alice's house where -- when they were alone, ruth raised the issue that someone was writing about er ex-husband and wanted her side of the story, too. alice was quite upset that yone w looking into her life. but it was her current husband who said, you know, if you don't tell your story, someone else will. and it's best that you tell it. >> have you talked to any of the family about the book? >> yes. >> since it's come out? >> yes. i've talked to alice and route and i've heard through shamwits what jim's reaction generally
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was. >> and what is the reaction of alice's to the book? >> it's interesting. she said it was marvelous. even though you'll see that it -- it's a very difficult read for her. because the decisions she made. while jim was captive, she had tried to get him declared dead. she had denied permission for the viva organization, whch produced the medals during the war or the wrist bracelets during the war with the names of the p.o.w.'s. she denied them permission to put jim's name on there. she told the army that there would be hell to pay if they released his name. but she sas it's marvelous, i think, because it's a very truthful portrayal of what she went through and her support system collapsing. >> who gave you her letters to him? >> jim did. but during my interviews with alice, i had the letters with me and i went over the letters wth her and she agreed that they
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could be used. >> in the early part of the book, you have these letters interspersed while he'in vietnam, you keep talking about his experience and you'd throw a letter in the middle of it. for instance, one i'm looking at from january 3, 1964. hi, honey. it was a beautiful day. the girls all three are in the kitchen eating popcorn. they wanted that as their treat tonight. i called the wives today. mrs. hoff, rose, older, smith, we a having our first coffee here next tuesday. and every page you go on, there is a letter like this. hi, darling. your fst letter arrived today, i was so happy, i was almst in tears. hi, darling. another day gone by, 167 more to go. by tend of the book, she's charging him with being homosexual. how do we go from this "hi darling" stuff in these letters all the way to "he's a homosexual" and she says a lot stronger things about him? >> well, both of them are very complex characters. alice was rased in poverty herself. she had a very challenging
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environment. her mother was unfaithl to her father during world war ii. and they lived in a boarding house. her father didn't -- didn't need to go to the ar. he was old enough, he was a contractor, a plumber, that he could have avoided service. but when pearl harbor was bombed, he decided he would go and he volunteered for the sibis and allison's mother was very frustrated with that. she was 7 or 8 years old at that point and he was leaving her alone. she had affairs while her father -- while her husband was in world war ii. alice grew up in that sort of environment with not a whole -- a great role model. her mother was quite vivacious and dated quite a bit and had dierent men in her life.
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jim thompson wasn't -- his parents were a more solid marrge, but they were a strange couple themselves. and like i say, it wasn't a very loving environm what alice and jim had together, they always felt was pretty good and it was -- it was the war and the separation that began to unravel te marriage. alice looked at the flaws in the marriage while he was gone and said, in effect, that i need more support. i can't be alone and wait because he might be lost and i'm getting olderer and so forth and i have four children to raise. so, she made her decision and she rationalized as best she could. she admits she lived with a lot of guilt during those years. from jim's point of view, he was -- he was not a rigorous kind of soldie he wasn't an athlete in high school. but what he -- what he had
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during the vietnam war, as a fellow p.o.w. said, h was tough of nails. he had hearts and guts and that was it. he lived on that. he's the ultimate survivor. i hope the book details some of the tremendous challenges, physical and mental that he went through as a p.o.w. when he got back in his marriage dissolved and his trust in women was affected, i think he was exposed to some homosexuality. in fact, i'm sure it was. and he was confused. and i've asked him about that and he said, yes, experimentation. so, her charges were not, i beeve, inaccurate, but by that time, all the love was out of their relationship. so, you have to put it in perspective from that. >> where are you from originally? >> i was aised in canen, pennsylvania. >> ever served in the military? >> i was in the coast guard.
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i enlisted in the coast guard waing for officer candidate school right after college and i spent -- i had hoped to get a ship. i was assigned instead to headquarters in public affairs and started writing press releases. after three years, working at the coast guard headquarters, i went to work for "army, navy, and air force times." >> where did you go to college? >> in pennsylvania. >> what did you major in? >> political science. >> and today you do what full time? >> i write a weekly sunday indicated news column called "military update." it covers pay and benefit issues, lifestyle issues, chang in policy that affect it is lives of service people and i syndicate that to daily newspapers to military bases so they can get breaking news that affects soldiers, i hope fast every week. >> can you make a living doing that? >> yes. i have about 50client newspapers. >> let me jump again to a whole different scene. he had the guard tie my elbows
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behind my back until they touched it. can't be done unless extreme force is applied. now, let me read that again. i mixed it -- missed a per. he had the guard tie my elbows behind my back until they touched. it can't be done unless extreme force is applied. they attach add rope to my elbows and threw it over a ceiling beam and hoisted me up. this forced my arms back even farther, causing pain on my breast bone. i felt my chest would split ope thankfully, i contracted dissen tear and was extremely weak. every time they tortured me, i'd pass out. what's tt scene from >> early on in his captivity in the first couple of years, jim went through some extreme torture. that was a typical kind of torture that the vietcong and north vietnamese had dne on prisoner0's of war, but jim was suffering through it by himself. probably e wor time fo him
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was probably the fist four years of isolation in the jungles is he didn't pay sufficient respect to the guards, so he threw -- they threw him in a cage tht described as about twofeet high, two feet wide and five feet high. that cage there is roomier than what he had experienced, but that's the typical kind of environment that he was kept in, just bamboo cage under guard. but this particular stint, four-month stint, was unbelievably desolate and torturous and so he survived. they finally broughthim out and put him in. when he would go from the cage lying on his side for four months to a room three feet wide by six feet long, it felt like the hilton to him. >> what was his first attempted to escape? >> he had those three relatively
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undramatic escape attempt that is i described earlier where he would walk away from his guards until ther guards would find him and shoo him backto his camp. within his first six months or so, though,h had -- he kept walking one day and there was no guard to stop him and he took off and he hid -- he ran all day as best he could. he was still injured from his crash in the aircraft, but he got to a river bank one evening, this evening and he hid in the brush until he thought it was dark enough to cross undetected. well, the vietcong had engaged a local mountain yard to look for hiand when jim's feet went in to cross the river, the bank on the other side exploded with mountain yards whooping and hollering and so forth, a and soon the vietcong were there and fired at his feet and he was
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recaptured. the brutal treatment that he received really began in ernest after that. he was --his head was slammed onhe ground until he'd pass out numerous times. he was beaten with clubs and ticks. >> there's an odd moment in the book where -- maybe it was valley forge, a psychiatrist broke down and cried when he's supposed to be helping him because he looked at his fingernails? >> that was a companion of his. jim came back with don mcfale, another specialorces soldier, who was also held for a time in the south and it does sort of indicate to you, i hope, what kind of conditions they went through. but don was captured with other special forces, i think all of them had died. but he was held in brutal captivity. he was, i think, five years. at one point, the vietcong had pulled out all of his toenails and fingernails and he was trying to illustrate for me the kind of lack of support that
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they got from some of the situation when they got bang back, the psychiatrists interviewed him to try to get him to talk about the experience and he found that psychiatrist crying at the clubbing experience for his fingers and toenails. >> is all this on audyode tape? >> no. oh, you mean my -- >> yes. >> i have a bagful of transcriptions. there are some characters in the book that i interviewed over the phone and i have phone note from. but from all the principles, my interviews with jim thompson, with alice, the daughters are on tape. >> what are you going to do with that? >> i'm just going to hold on to them. >> is it ever going to be -- can we ever hear their voices? >> that's always a possibility. i haven't had any kindof -- someone approach me about that. but they tell a powerful story. jim jr. at one point said i've never talked to anybody like i have with you and i took that as a compliment that i listened to closely to what they had to say
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and i hope i portrafed accurately and well what they went through. >> how many different characters do you think you have in the book? >> i think there's about 90. >> of all those characters, who was the angriest and why? >> i think it would have to e jim thompson. jim came back -- three things, he said, kept him alive in captivity. faith in god, faith in country, faith inhe love of a good woman. when he got back, he found eventually none of that. i'll explain the marriage was nothg as he expected. he expected that while he was gone, they talked about him all thtime. they knew their father. they couldn't wait to see him. and they wouldn't -- he wouldn't be unknowto his children. they would share stories over the years, pleasant thing, their experiences at christmas together. none of that was there. when jim was released a month
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after everett alvarez inmarch, 1973, when tey arrived in the philippines, each of the p.o.w.'s came in a file folder, where it contained love letters, report cards, drawings that the children had done, jim thompson's had a pay stub and he called alice from the philippines and s said we need to talwhen you get back. that's when e confronted when he got back. so, he had to be the most angry in the story. so, he lost his faith in the love of a good woman. the country didn't embrace the warriors from vietnam the way jim had expected at all. he believed it was all propaganda while he was five years in isolation. what he was being fed by his captor assist that your nation is divided over this war. there's great dissension. there's politicians who are saying stop the war. jim couldn't believe it untl he met his first americans and they said, in effect, yes, that's true. >> there were characters in your book that didn't like him. >> jim is a very strong-willed
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individual. he spent five years in captivity by himself. he probably had numerous argues and he won all of them. byhe time he met up with others who had been captured six month, a year, he thought he should lead them. he was put into a situation where he wasn't with other military people, he was with civilians who werecaptured during the at the time offensive in 1968. and -- tet offensive in 1968 and ese ivilians were submitted to the anti-rally protests back home. they weren't the gung ho militant that is they saw jim thompson to be. where as if they wer employees of the defense department, he did command them, some of them realized that afterwards. but many of them were contractors working for the defense department and they didn't want to pay attention to jim thompson. they didn't want to be organized by jim thompson. they didn't want to escape with
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him. jim was blessed that he had one of his cell mates was lou meyer, this tou as nails navy fireman, a veteran himself, who believed jim thompson was in charge. lou meyer was an exercise fanatic. he wanted to stay in shape. he wanted to escape. when jim thompson and lou were together for the first time, jim jumps out of his bunk, tries to do a single push-up and crashes on his face. he begins to cry. lou meyer stops his exercise program, he decides i'm going to build this guy back up to keep myself in shape, ill exci whe jiis sleeping, but otherwise i'll go along with this pace. so, the two o them go throgh this extraordinary exercise regiment while he's captive. jim probably weighed, at his worst part, probably weighed less than 100 pounds. he was a soldier when captured of about 180 pounds. he was a skelton.
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when the first p.o.w.'s got a glimpse of him, not before any of them lived with him, but mike o'connor, an air force pilot or a army pilot that was shot down during the tet offensive looked through a crack in the door of his cell and he see this is body up against the cell doors and he though for sure the vietcong were playing a joke on him that that was a corpse and he sees the people wipping and move and he realizes that's a human being. and when other p.o.w.'s saw him at that time, this is in 1968, they -- some of them began to cry because they said that's a look at christmas future. that's what we will be. that's kind of thething that jim -- that was his nadir. when lou meyer met him, they were getting better food, live together, support each other and then they began this regiment that they would build up and they culd escape in 1971. >> we talked about alice and harrell. they lived together for 7 1/2 years, whatever. where is harold today?
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>> i'm not sure where he is. i was able to contact him in the mid 1980's, to see if he would agree to be interviewed and he declined. one of the interesting aspects of the story is that he helped raise these children. none of them ever had ay further contact with hi once their real father cme home. alice never had any further contact with him. so, he became a great unknown then for the rest of his life and their life. >> what would you say the relationship of all the children are with jim thompson today? >> very strained. i'd say the children would like to have a relationship with their father. jim doesn't -- wants them to choose, i believe, between the mother and him and they're not abt to make that choice. >> he remarried? >> yes. >> how did that happen and are they still married? >> jim and alice divorced, as i said, 15 months after they got home. they each soon remarried, probably within six months.
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jim remarried an air force officer who actually out ranked him and each had their own way of living. it was a very difficult time. jim was fighting alcoholism and depression at the time. i was originally going to title the book "dream house" and the reason was the way jim kept his sanity incaptivity was building a dream house over and over again in his mind. when he got home, he built that dream house, not physically, but he found the house of his dreams. he put in it what he expected to always put in it, fortunate ished it the way he wanted, had the rooms for the children that he wanted ad the final straw for him when he got back, the final anchor uprooted for him was his second wife had changed that house aroundon him and believing that jim may have had some homosexual relationships at one point she left and, in jim's
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mind, destroyed that hom. you have other photos in the book. what's this photo from up here on top? >> on the flightut of vietnam, another special forces soldier, lonny smith, presents jim with his green beret. >> what about below that? >> that is jim being greeted at the philippine air base by the ranking officer. >> admiral zmerol, it looks like. >> another one. >> it looks like him from the side. what is this photo? >> that is jim thompson went to valley forge hospital to recuperate. that's where alice met him. he saidwhere are the childn? she said they're coming down the next day. he had never seen his son. the scene that that portrays is, on either side of him, are parts the hospital and they were filled with workers fro the hospital watching the reunion of a 9-year-old boy and the father he hasever seen.
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andimmy ran up the ramp and knocked his father down. jim was very weak. the daughters commented on how skinny his neck was when they put their arms around him. at that moment, alice said i decided to give the family a chance by living with jim and seeing if we could repair our marriage. >> how many other stories, not just like this, do you think there are of the p.o.w.'s? >> i think this story is unique in that it goes behind the scenes. it's almost like the underbelly of the stockdale story where you had a wife that built an organization while he was in captivity and kept the fires burning and they had a strong marriage, which continues to this day. i think perhaps a more common story was a prisoner o war coming back, expecting things to be exactly the way he had left it, finding a woman who had learned to live on her own, to
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raise the family a certain way, who wasn't ready to give up her independence. and i'm talking the if they were nevertheless had waited, they sti had difficulty adjusting because they were -- had gone on different paths duri the captivity. an awful lot of the p.o.w.'s ended their marriages -- their marriage ended a few years after they returned. >> how did you get john mccain to to the introduction? >> i had interviewed senator mccain for the book because a year afterhe p.o.w.'s were released, some of themore prominent were invited back. south vietnam was strugglingo remain a free country. they wanted some publicity. they also wanted to honor the p.o.w.'s who had sacrificed so much. so, mccain and jim thompson were among those honored. they met at that point. senator mccain knew about the book, i think, although he may have forgotten it by tetime i finally got around to finding a
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publisher and i sent the manuscript to him. i heard back from his aide, saying that the senator gets a lot of requests to do forwards, but he certainly wanted to do this one for jim thompson. >> toughest part of this book for you? >> the toughest part was confronting jim and alice with what each of their stories were. and the interesting thing is that they all -- they agreed with each others' facts to a large extent, except that their perception of the marriage was dimple. >> a lasting moment that you'll remember along the way over the 15 years that you put this together. >> i had many of thedge, actually. i was quite moved by the whole thing. but there are two scenes in the book that gripped me.
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one is that this description of a minor character in the book of a woman who's going to see jim thompson while he's in the fill peens or hawaii, ratherer -- philippines or hawaii, rather, before he goes home and there these letters attached to the wall and the moment that she describes that moves her enormously there, i think, says a lot of what the p.o.w.'s in general sacrificed. the other scene that is quite memorable for me is when jm and don mcfale first get home and freedom and thy hear "god bless america" playing. they broke down. >> this is the book. it's called "glory deed." it's all about jim thomon, the longest-held . >> redesigned website features
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authors interviewed about their books. you can use the searchable database and find links to the author's website, blogs, and twitter feeds. book notes.org. a great way to watch and enjoy the authors and their books. >> the women themselves were interested in politics it had that have no vehicle to express that in their own minds. they were attracted to those who are going to become politically active or already were politically active. >> i think half of these women would be almost totally unrecognizable to most men and women on the street. >> this presidents' day, he sent
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c-span presents first ladies. exploring the lives of women who served as first lady. from went to washington to michele obama. it begins 9:00 p.m. eastern and pacific. watch the program earlier in the day live at 2:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. >> you are watching the tv on c-span2. here's our primetime lineup for tonight. former democratic oarsman argues that congress will be continuing to stay locked on sequestration until an agreement is reached. ..
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during his tenure and contends that congress will remain locked on legislation until the start to understand each other. this is just over an hour. [applause] >> thank you very much for those kind words and a thank-you all for being here tonight. this is a wonderful crowd, and i am very pleased to see so many of you here